Where the Blues rears its beautiful and ugly head.
Friday, June 13, 2008
More Music Reviews
Great Electric Blues
The reason I'm not giving this double cd a five star rating is because of the repetitive undercurrent throughout the disc. T-Bone Walker is a fantastic guitar player, though, in my opinion, not as good as Lonnie Johnson. Walker's vocals are solid and his lyrics are often very creative. This cd is very expensively priced, so you are probably better off trying to buy it used or obtain the tracks in some other way.
Hank Williams Is A God
I have had this wonderful box set for less than a month, and I'm already beginning to wear out the 4 wonderful discs. For the amount of money it costs, this is the greatest box set ever assembled, and I'm sure of it. These 4 magnificent compact discs, cool cardboard case, and excellent booklet cost less than 25 dollars! Although the first cd starts off a bit weak, and the forth cd has some songs that aren't Hank's best, 90% of the songs in this collection are absolutely impeccable! Before I purchased this collection, I knew that Hank Williams was excellent, but I had no idea that he was a god. How on earth did such a simple and uneducated man write these lyrics?! Some of the poetry in these songs, especially on the depressing and melancholy tunes, is comparable to the work of all of Europe's greatest classical writers and poets. If you have the "40 Greatest Hits" cd, you should still buy this! This is because the demos at the end of disc three contain some of Hank's best lyrics, and these songs are not included on "40 Greatest Hits". There is more to Hank Williams than just his hits! He doesn't just have great party songs, he also has extremely dark and cryptic songs about death and misery, and glorious and heavenly spiritual tunes. In conclusion, Hank Williams belongs up there with Robert Johnson, Louis Armstrong, Blind Willie Johnson, Blind Lemon Jefferson, Son House, Django Reinhardt, Bessie Smith, Louis Jordan etc. In other words, Hank too, was the blues; and he was a god!
Excellent Early Leadbelly
This is an excellent Leadbelly cd, which features work songs, early blues, and African American folk songs. With it's heartbreaking lyrics and seemingly-ancient melody, "Goodnight Irene" is one of, if not the, greatest songs ever, and this cd contains the greatest recording of "Goodnight Irene" that's around. I'll go out on a limb and say that "Ham An' Eggs" and "Take This Hammer" have vocals which have more power than, perhaps, Muddy Water's guitar work on the electric "Still A Fool". Perhaps the only complaint one could make about this cd is that it doesn't feature a lot of Leadbelly's blues recordings, although in my mind, the man is better known for and better at folk and work songs. "Birmingham Jail" is excellent, as always. In conclusion, this is a four star cd that you should definitely pick up!
Probably Not The Best Stokes CD, But Still Great
This is a four-star cd which features the music of Memphis bluesman Frank Stokes. Stokes was born on January 1, 1888, which makes him one of the oldest bluesmen to have recorded. He was an excellent guitarist who had a beautifully archaic and gentle tint to his vocals. The major drawbacks of this cd are the nearly horrendous sound quality on two or three of the songs at the end of the cd, and the three versions of "'Tain't Nobody's Business If I Do" which become quite repetitive. Perhaps a better buy would have been Yazoo's Stokes disc, which doesn't have nearly as many songs on it, but does boast much better sound quality. In conclusion, Frank Stokes was an excellent exponent of the Memphis sound; second only to Furry Lewis.
Wisdom & Sadness Of The Ages
Simply put, this album contains the wisdom and sadness of the ages. This is easily one of the top 20 compact discs ever made. I have not heard Clarence "Tom" Ashley's stuff that he did with Doc Watson, but I know it can't be nearly as powerful and sorrowful, and, at times, gleeful, as this wonderful music. Like Dock Boggs, a man whose cd I previously reviewed, Ashley is white, but is able to not only play the blues with the best of them, but also feel it. And his feelings come across loud and clear on this album. His feelings transcend space and time. This isn't hype; Clarence "Tom" Ashley is indeed a legend of American folk music.
Bo Weavil Stands Out
This album contains the complete recordings of Bo Weavil Jackson, which is reason enough to purchase this great cd. Not much is known about Bo Weavil. In fact, we don't even know his real name. However, he produced some of the greatest acoustic country blues that I've ever heard. Eleven out of the thirteen of his complete recordings range from great to masterpiece. Only "...Kingdom Land" and "Why Do You Moan?" are average songs. Bobby Grant's "Nappy Head Blues" is an essential piece of pre-war blues music. Lane Hardin has a nice and clear voice, and some pretty guitar work. King Solomon Hill's second take of his "Whoopee Blues" is quite awesome. This is a 4 star cd that you should pick up!
One Of The Original Bluesmen
Along with men like Frank Stokes, Charley Patton, Furry Lewis, Mississippi John Hurt and Cryin' Sam Collins, Blind Lemon Jefferson was one of the original bluesmen. Although it's commonly thought that he was born in 1897, more recent research has suggested that he was born in 1893. During the years of his adolescence, the blues was first beginning to take shape. Songs like "Black Horse Blues," "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean," "Matchbox Blues," "Corinna Blues," and "Rabbit Foot Blues" are all absolutely essential to anyone's blues collection, or to their general understanding of American music. Jefferson's strange and unconventional vocals controlled and dictated what he played on guitar. His guitar playing was highly influenced by the Flamenco playing of Mexican workers whom he lived near during his life. His lyrics are bright, original, often sarcastic and humorous, and great poetry. Unfortunately, both this disc and a Yazoo Blind Blake disc that I have, often skip when I play them. Better luck to others who purchase this Jefferson disc!
Gentle And Timeless
Mississippi John Hurt possessed a gentle and timeless voice and guitar playing skill. His guitar work is considered to be some of the greatest, and most complicated, in all of American music, and his voice is immediately soothing to even the savage beast. Songs like "Frankie," "Ain't No Tellin'," and "Avalon Blues" will surely leave many students of guitar simply breathless. To those who do not play any musical instruments, his flowing guitar technique is still dazzling, and his voice is more "homey" and "likeable" than perhaps anyone else's, even the great Louis Armstrong's. As a darling of the Blues/Folk Revival of the 1960s, Hurt often played the Pre-War songs we hear on this disc, and almost just as well as he did back in the old days, one might add. This is a great disc for both the musician and the listener in us all.
A True Poet Of The Blues
Blind Willie McTell was a true poet of the blues and also a master guitar player. Songs like "Statesboro Blues," "Writin' Paper Blues," "Ticket Agent Blues," "Talkin' To Myself," "Love Changin' Blues," "Lay Some Flowers On My Grave" and "Teasin' Brown" are all magnificent highlights of this 4 cd set. The only drawbacks are the lousy vocals of the female singers whom McTell backs on some of the tracks, and the extremely racist views that Lomax holds, and demonstrates on disc 4. Otherwise, this is a wonderful buy.
The Brilliance Of Jimmie Tarlton
This is a wonderful box set which features the words, voices, and music of Tom Darby and Jimmie Tarlton. While Darby possessed some talent and mastered the rudiments of being an Old-Timey singer and musician, Jimmie Tarlton is the true star here. Tarlton is a brilliant, first-rate musician, who belongs up there with Louis Armstrong, Lonnie Johnson, Bessie Smith, Clarence Tom Ashley etc. Tarlton has a beautiful, soothing, dramatic, lovely, birdlike call of a voice, a strange yet intriguing style of guitar playing (which mixes Negro Blues playing and Hawaiian guitar stylings), and a knowledge of many songs in the Old-Timey, Blues and Folk traditions. Songs like "By The Old Oaken Bucket, Louise," "My Father Died A Drunkard," "Roy Dixon," "All Bound Down In Texas," and "Lowe Bonnie" are breathtaking. The entire box set is a must have, and there are no songs which leave you feeling unsatisfied. Also, Tarlton's work in the 1960s can be found on his "Steel Guitar Rag" cd, which finds him in excellent form, despite his advanced age. Simply indispensable!
A Fascinating Figure
Bascom Lamar Lunsford was a fascinating figure, who in his 91 years on this earth managed to record more American folk songs, British ballads, Negro spirituals, breakdowns, reels, topical songs etc. than probably anyone else who ever lived. He was a jack-of-all-trades and a very educated man of a middle class background. On this particular album, "Old Stepstone" is the masterpiece, in my opinion. Its lyrics are simply breathtaking! Lunsford's greatest strength is not in singing or his banjo playing, but rather in his huge repertory of songs and the laid-back way in which he plays them. His vocals are also easier on the ears than those of a Dock Boggs or a Roscoe Holcomb. Unfortunately, the vast majority of the thousands of songs that the man recorded are not available on compact disc, and that's a tragedy. In conclusion, this is an excellent album of Old-Timey and American folk music which is very easy to listen to and is extremely rewarding and heartfelt.
Almost As Solid As "Big Mama's Door"
This cd is excellent. It is almost flawless. It deserves 4.5 stars. It's also just a step or two below "Big Mama's Door", which was Hart's first release. The only real flaw on this cd is the song selection. Hart does Leadbelly's "Alberta", instead of doing the Mississippi Sheiks/Bo Carter version of the song, which happens to be a much more melodic and pretty tune. Also, Alvin plays "Devil Got My Woman", which has been done to death by everyone and their grandma. The cd also seems a bit short; there are twelve songs on this disc and you could probably fit fourteen or maybe even fifteen. Still, this cd marks a return to acoustic country blues for Hart. Buy this, you will not be disappointed!
Master Of Words
Hank Williams is a true master of words. As one reviewer previously mentioned, no lyricist or poet ever used such simple English to express such complicated feelings. On top of Hank's lyrical brilliance, he was a vocal genius. In the same way that Muddy Waters almost "created" the intonations in the vocals of all modern blues singers, Hank "created" the intonations and pauses in the vocals of all modern country singers. Both men were masters of vocal subtlety. As for these two cds, they are flawless. Sure, maybe your favorite Hank Williams song is missing, and there is one you're not crazy about in this collection. However, this is as perfect as a Hank cd can be. Hank Williams is probably one of the 10 greatest artists in the history of music; buy this cd now!
Vicious And Uncompromising
This cd is simply vicious and uncompromising; in the same way as the music of Robert Johnson, Leadbelly, Blind Willie Johnson, Skip James etc. Dock Boggs plays his banjo in a bluesy fashion, as opposed to a purely old-timey (what would later become known as bluegrass) style. For me, the standout tracks on this magnificent piece of heartaching white blues and country, are "Country Blues," "Danville Girl," "Sammie, Where You Been So Long?," "Lost Love Blues" and "New Prisoner's Song." However, each track on this album deserves at least a 7 out of 10. Just from looking at the lyrics to this album on Long Time Coming, which is an excellent site on Dock Boggs, one can determine that this album is a real killer. The only complaint I have about this album is that I don't believe the lyrics are given to the last 4 tunes. Boggs has recorded material from the 1960's that is available, and while I haven't heard it yet, I can't imagine it being any more potent, striking, guttural, or visceral than these tracks. Five Stars.
This is an excellent cd to purchase if you'd like to experience Darby & Tarlton, but don't want to pay 80 dollars for their 3 cd's which include their complete recordings. Songs like "Frankie Dean" (a version of "Frankie & Johnny"), "Lowe Bonnie" (in the "Henry Lee" family) and "On The Banks Of A Lonely River" are immortal testaments to American folk music. The guitar playing by both men is excellent, and the singing is better than that of just about any Old-Timey duo I can think of. If you like Grayson & Whitter, Burnett & Rutherford, or Frank Hutchison, buy this cd!
One Of The Greatest Musicians Who Ever Lived
Jimmie Tarlton was one of the greatest musicians to have ever graced this earth. Although he was elderly when he made these recordings, they are excellent examples of his work, and demonstrate to us that old age did not remove any of his musical abilities. Originally part of a duo with the mediocre Tom Darby, with whom he cut some of the greatest records ever made, Jimmie Tarlton came up with his own style of music: he sang in a rather European-sounding tenor and falsetto, while playing Old-Timey music and Negro Blues on his guitar within the framework of Hawaiian guitar playing! There was, nor will there ever be, anyone quite like Jimmie Tarlton, whose songs like "John Henry," "Brown Eyes," "Put-Together Blues," "I'll Never Get Drunk Anymore," "Pretty Little Girl," and "Lowe Bonnie" really shine on this disc! Also, take a look at my reviews of other Tarlton cds.
Nighthawk: Master Of The Slide
Robert Nighthawk is a true master of slide guitar. His slide playing is low-down, dark, emotive, and causes me to make all kinds of strange facial expressions. Nighthawk had a relaxed singing voice and a decent variety of blues lyrics, though his real strength was his killer guitar playing. However, the song "Mama, Talk To Your Daughter" keeps me from giving this album 5 stars. The singer, who is probably not J.B. Lenoir, doesn't have the greatest voice and sometimes forgets to sing directly into the microphone. The song is also very repetitive, and is better when it's kept to three minutes or so in length, like Lenoir or John Lee Hooker's versions of it. Don't get me wrong; this is an awesome album, and one of the top three greatest live blues albums of all-time. The thirteen minute interview is very enjoyable and revealing. Nighthawk seems like a quiet, reserved, humble man, and it's a shame that some of the slide playing he demonstrates in the interview didn't provoke him to disregard the interview altogether and play entire songs! One can definitely see where Muddy Waters' solo on his live version of "Streamline Woman" came from; Muddy borrowed it from Nighthawk. As another reviewer said, if you are interested in the California, studio-produced, obnoxious, crappy music that is an indication of the downfall of Western Civilization, avoid this album because you won't like it. If you are interested in authentic electric blues, forget about Vaughan, Clapton and Johnny Winter for now, and get to the heart of electric blues- Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters, Howlin' Wolf.
One Of Cash's Best
This is simply one of the best albums Cash has ever done. It is immediately touching, striking, frightening, and incredibly personal. It is almost as if Johnny Cash is your personal psychologist; how else could he know about all of the thoughts and feelings that exist in the bowels of your soul? This album is brilliant, and Cash didn't need to go to Rick Rubin to make this record. Cash desired to make a record that represented Americana, and that's exactly what this is. I think this is a better album than Springsteen's "Nebraska" or anything Dylan has done in a long, long time. Cash does his own version of the folk-blues song "Delia," calling it "Delia's Gone." Actually, Johnny's version has very little in common with the Blind Willie McTell version, except for the fact that the subject of the song is a woman named Delia who is brutally killed. "Why Me Lord" back to back with "Thirteen" makes you wonder whether Cash is on the side of God or Satan. The truly fascinating thing about this album is that the guitar playing is very simple and understated; Johnny was never an expert guitar player. This album is eclectic, moving, and so far it is my favorite Cash album besides "At Folsom Prison." I'm looking forward to listening to the three albums that came after this one.
Cash Is Better Than Real Cash
Johnny Cash is better than receiving real cash; you know, dollar bills. This album is fantastic. I just got done listening to and reviewing the first album in the American Recordings series, and this one is even better than it, in my opinion. These songs are even darker, more romantic, and introspective than the songs on the first Rubin-produced album. "Before My Time" and "Would You Lay With Me (In A Field Of Stone)" are enough to make any human being cry. This definitely isn't the Cash album to put on if you want to tap your feet and have a good time, though. This music is high art, and if you look close enough, you will find that it has the same sentiments that can be found in classic cinema or Eastern philosophy; there is an intangible beauty to all of them. The really funny part is that I don't enjoy Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers, Beck, and many of the other artists whose songs Cash covers in this series. If you are sitting alone one night, pondering your future or the meaning of life, put this cd on and let Johnny Cash work his magic.
I am a rather eclectic human being. I enjoy classic foreign films and studying East Asian religions.
My life changed after listening to Led Zeppelin's BBC Sessions cd and going out and buying "Sleepy" John Estes and Muddy Waters records.